Yesterday I read an article about a woman who is calling for a priest to be removed from his diocese because the priest had refused to give her Holy Communion. The priest apparently learned, directly from Ms Johnson, just before the funeral Mass for her mother began, that Ms Johnson was a lesbian who has been living with her lesbian partner for 19 years already and would continue to do so. You can read the secular media articles here and here.
This scenario is guaranteed to produce a whole range of emotions. I experienced both anger and sadness. Sadness due to the fact that, when one thinks of Holy Communion, one must by necessity think of our Lord standing there as the crowds come to him to receive healing. Yet there were also times when, sadly, those who approached our Lord, did so for other, less sincere reasons, and this may be one such example. In addition to sadness, I also felt anger because the LGBT groups are always so very aggressive, vociferous and repugnant in the way that they go about fighting any form of discrimination, actual or perceived, against any LGBT person.
LGBT persons seem, in many cases, to suffer from a horrendously erroneous belief that everything they want is a right to which they are entitled. Anyone with an iota of common sense knows that this is such complete and utter nonsense! Yet, LGBT groups are permitted to continue claiming everything as their right. It is time that society stood up to them and pointed out that, just because you really want something, does not make it your right! Also, just because a large group of society has a right to something, does not in turn automatically extend that right to everyone else in society.
A clear example of this differentiation of rights is voting rights. Using South Africa as an example, consider that since 1994, thankfully, all South African citizens now have a right to vote, if they meet certain criteria. One of those criteria is age. So now black people, who were previously denied the right to vote, may vote. However black people, younger than 18, still may not vote, in the same way as all people from other races, who are below the age of 18, also have no such right.
So, to those LGBT groups who would like to make this episode, of the priest denying Holy Communion to the woman, about LGBT rights, I say get lost. This has absolutely nothing to do with LGBT rights. Receiving Holy Communion is not a right that is automatically available to all people. As in the above example of voting, there are, for want of a better word, ‘criteria’ that must be met, before one has the right to receive this Sacrament from the Church. One of them is, for example, that one has to be a Catholic. Which brings me to the next source of my anger.
In this scenario, I see a woman who, by virtue of having disclosed openly that she has been cohabitating with another lesbian in a 19-year relationship, has also expressed openly her rejection of the Church’s teaching on both cohabitation and homosexual relationships. Can one really reject the teaching of the Church and then still honestly consider oneself a member of the Church?
This question is one that I have frequently considered and to which I inevitably always arrive at the same conclusion. One cannot! Either you believe in the Church and accept the teaching of the Church as the truth, or you don’t, on both counts. So, was it reasonable of this woman to present herself for Holy Communion, one has to ask? Is she to be considered a Catholic, with a right to Holy Communion, given her open rejection of the Church’s teaching? (Here you may want to read another post of mine. It relates to a bishop who has urged non-believing Catholics to leave the Church. Find it here . . .)
This scenario does, as I have already written earlier, also make me very sad. A funeral Mass, unlike any other Mass, is normally a very personal event. Many of those present will know one another very well, because they will be family or close friends. Unlike in a general Mass, it is therefore reasonable to assume that many attending the funeral Mass will also know about Ms. Johnson and her 19-year cohabitation with another homosexual. (19-Years is a long time to keep a secret?) While not all those attending the funeral Mass will be Catholics, all, without doubt, would be aware of the Church’s clear teaching about homosexuality and cohabitation. (I don’t think many people today can claim ignorance of the Church’s position in this regard.) So, given this scenario, what message would those at the funeral Mass receive if they see Ms Johnson approaching and also actually receiving, from the priest, Holy Communion? Would the message not be 'its okay to do what you are doing'? What also is Ms Johnson's thoughts and agenda, when she decides to approach the priest, to receive Holy Communion, having just minutes before disclosed her 19-year homosexual relationship to him?
We can gain some insight into the thought process from Ms Johnson’s brother, who said this after the incident: “You have serious questions about how American Catholics in particular practice their faith. How many divorced people live in a technical state of sin? How many people practice some form of artificial birth control in a state of sin? If the church will now have these ‘state of grace’ police, you know, how can that be? That’s the most personal thing in the world — between a person and God.”
Yes you are quite right Mr Johnson, there are serious questions about how Catholics, not just American Catholics, practice their faith. Yes, you are also right that it is a personal thing between God and the person. But you are wrong to think it is only between God and the person. It is also between God and the Church, because the Church has been given the duty, by God, to explain the whole moral law authoritatively. (See my post "Contraception and Humanae Vitae" for more on this.) In the absence of the Church, our tendency to sin, will lead us to make erroneous judgements. It is plain for all in society to see how ignoring this teaching authority of the Church, has led many Catholics to fall into the trap of subjectivism and relativism.
The example, given by Ms Johnson's own brother, of divorce, is a clear example of subjectivism and relativism ruling. Many Catholics believe, sadly often because of dissident Catholic priests, theologians, writers and newspapers, that the Church has no authority whatsoever regarding morals. Instead, Catholics are deceived into thinking that whatever they personally decide is acceptable, as Ms Johnson and her supporters have clearly done, is in fact so. No, Ms Johnson, I am afraid it is not so! This position is hogwash! Listen to the Church and those priests who are brave enough to stand by the true teaching of the Church!
It also appropriate here to mention that it seems evident that so many Catholics have completely lost even the most remote understanding of the truth of the Real Presence. Holy Communion is not just a ritual! During the prayer of consecration, our Lord Jesus becomes truly present, body, blood, soul and divinity, in the consecrated bread and wine. That IS Jesus, it is NOT just bread and wine anymore. When we stand up and go forward to receive Holy Communion, we are like those crowds of people getting up to go to him for healing. Or are we?
Are people approaching the Blessed Sacrament – Jesus – seeking healing and communion, or is it possible that they are approaching Jesus, like the Pharisees did, seeking to test him and catch him out, like they did for example on the subject of divorce? (Matthew 19: 1 - 9) Worse still, are they approaching Jesus, like those soldiers did in the Garden of Gethsemane, wanting to arrest him and kill him? (Matthew 26: 47 - 56)
Is it possible that the priest, Fr Marcel Guarnizo, was protecting our Lord when he covered the Blessed Sacrament with his hands, as Ms. Johnson approached? Is it possible that he deserves praise? I think so!
In closing, it is interesting to note that a secular newspaper, The New York Daily News, starting 1 March 2012, ran an online poll[i] to determine how people felt on the subject. They asked whether the priest should be removed because he had refused Ms Johnson Holy Communion.
I automatically assumed that, given that it is a secular newspaper, the overwhelming majority would answer “Yes” remove the priest. Well, thank goodness, I was wrong. By the time I sat down to write this post, on the afternoon of 3 March 2012, 70% had voted “no”, don’t remove the priest. Only 26% voted “Yes” and 3% were not sure. This is encouraging. People want priests standing up for what we believe as Catholics. We want an example that we can follow.